In Sputnik’s Orbit

A few thoughts to tide you over…

 

Meet the Winners – Martin L Shoemaker

When I won Writers of the Future last year, I burned off some of the anticipatory energy leading up to the workshop by interviewing my fellow winners. It was so much fun, I decided to do it again. This week, meet a name already familiar to some of you, Martin L Shoemaker.

Stuart: Howdy Martin, can I call you Martin? Of course I can, that’s your name. Tell everyone who doesn’t know, who you are.

Martin: I am a writer with a lucrative programming hobby. I’m not a full-time writer yet, and I thoroughly enjoy programming; but I would love to someday do programming on the side, rather than writing on the side. I’m not afraid to tell the world that two of my favorite movies are “Hudson Hawk” and “Howard the Duck”. Once you’ve admitted that in public, there’s not much left that can shock people. Speaking of “Hudson Hawk,” I can’t watch that film without singing along to “Swinging on a Star” and “Side by Side”. That ought to surprise somebody! (And terrify them, if they know my singing voice…)

Stuart: Hah! So no forlorn dreams of a singing career then. What got you into writing?

Martin: I have absolutely no idea. I have told stories for as long as I can remember. I had imaginary friends, and my mom tells me I made up stories about them. When I was 5 or 6, my brother got a typewriter and I was fascinated: That machine could put words on paper, and they would be just like A REAL BOOK!!!!!

When I was a teenager, I submitted a few stories, got a few rejections, and got discouraged. Meanwhile, I was learning to program, and I was a natural at it. So I veered in that direction, and I satisfied my storytelling urge through role-playing games, mostly as a gamemaster.

I never REALLY gave up writing, I just gave up believing I could do anything with my writing. I was sure it was a pipe dream, but I kept writing anyway. And one day I had a first chapter that I thought might become a book, and I shared it with my gaming group. Among them is my brother-in-law, Mark “Buck” Buckowing. Mark is one of the most voracious readers I know. He looked at my chapter and said, “Write THE END on it, and send it out. That’s not a chapter, that’s a great story.”

Stuart: Awesome!

Martin: So I was hooked all over again. I started writing a lot more. I started submitting, and not letting rejections slow me down this time. I started studying. And four years later, I have Third Place in Writers of the Future. I have four sales to Analog: two already published, and two coming out in 2015. I have two sales to Galaxy’s Edge and two to the Digital Science Fiction anthology (now defunct). I have one story in “The Gruff Variations: Writing for Charity Volume 1”, and one in “The Glass Parachute” anthology. And the most stunning to me of all: my Analog novella, “Murder on the Aldrin Express” was reprinted in The Year’s Best Science Fiction 31st Annual Edition, and also in audio and eBook in Year’s Top Short SF Novels Vol. 4. All because I stopped letting rejection stop me, and all because my brother-in-law gave me a shove in the right direction. Thanks, Buck!

Oh, and that story he told me to send out? It won 2nd Place in the Baen Memorial Writing Contest. Rich Johnson won 1st, but couldn’t make the trip from Australia, so I attended the awards in his place. I had dinner with Ben Bova, and lunch with BUZZ ALDRIN! Thanks, Rich! And thanks, Buck!

Stuart: I’ve always said, it’s impossible for any writer to over appreciate his or her beta readers. Describe your “writer’s cave” your preferred writing location.

Martin: My most pleasant writing experiences have been in unexpected places where the right confluence of events gave me time to kill and just the right mood. I wrote half a novella in an airport one time when there was a flight delay. I wrote nearly 10,000 words on New Year’s Eve two years ago, half in a gyros shop and half in a Starbucks. I had a party that night but no place to go for most of the day, so I just sat and wrote. So often I crave this sort of writing spot: a restaurant, café, park, or museum where I can escape for a few hours. I’d love to live near a good space museum that I could turn into a regular writing haunt.

Stuart: How long have you been entering Writers of the Future?

Martin: I first entered in 2011 and stumbled in as Finalist. To make a long story short, I entered every quarter from then until my win. In all, I had 1 win, 2 Finalists, 1 Semi-Finalist, and 8 Honorable Mentions. Plus 1 Rejection, but I didn’t let it get me down!

Stuart: Very wise. Star Trek or Star Wars?

Martin: When you can have both, why choose? But I will say, when it comes to Star Wars, I fell asleep halfway through Episode II and slept almost completely through III. When it comes to Star Trek, I have watched the Original Series more times than I can possibly count. I’ve watched the Animated Series at least half a dozen times. I’ve watched Next Gen probably three or four times at least. I’ve watched most of DS9, maybe a third of Voyager, and all of Enterprise. I’m not a huge Star Trek reader, but I’ve read at least 30 titles. And long, long ago, I wrote a couple of pieces of Star Trek fanfic. So I’m far, far, FAR more familiar with Star Trek.

Stuart: If you had a superpower, what would it be?

Martin: Patience and its dark side: Stubbornness. And I DO have it! I pride myself on my patience. Sometimes I even make a game out of it, trying to determine just how long I’ll have to wait for something. I once pulled into a drive-through lane and ordered one thing: a butterscotch shake. I got up to the window and waited. I saw someone bring the shake up to the window, set it down, and walk away. I saw somebody else come up to the window register briefly and then walk away. And so I waited. There was no one else in the drive-through lane behind me, so I waited some more. After a few minutes, my brain shifted into The Patience Game: How long can they go before somebody realizes what’s going on? So I waited some more. And the insidious side of The Patience Game is that the more time I invest in waiting, the more reluctant I am to give up. So I waited. And I waited. And eventually the manager came to the window and asked what I needed. When he learned that I had been in line for FORTY-FIVE MINUTES… Well, there was some shouting that came clear through the glass of the drive-through window.

Stuart: Ha ha! Great one! Tell me, when you were a kid, what was your favorite toy?

Martin: So many choices! Let’s call it a tie: a little plastic triceratops I called Trixie and Major Matt Mason, the astronaut figure. Rumor has it Tom Hanks wants to make a Major Matt Mason movie. If he does, I will be first in line for tickets!

Stuart: Sweet! For those who may not be familier with Major Matt Mason, here’s the here’s the Wikipedia link. When I won Writers of the Future, I had originally written my story for another market. How about you?

Martin: Well, ‘Unrefined” started as another Baen Memorial entry–the PERFECT Baen Memorial story, by my calculations. So it didn’t even place. Now the thing about Baen Memorial stories is they’re excellent Analog stories. This one was the PERFECT Analog story. So naturally, Trevor gave it a pass. So I sent it to WotF, right on the heels of a rejection. And I was absolutely sure that Dave would hate this story. So naturally… Authors, don’t try to predict the markets. They’ll always surprise you.

But the first idea? It centered around a team/quasi-family of asteroid miners who have to deliver a load or default on a contract. Only there’s one problem: I grew up reading Jerry Pournelle’s “Those Pesky Belters and Their Torch Ships”. The nuts-and-bolts are too much for this interview, but basically the essay proves that asteroid belt societies just make no sense. he problem is that the asteroids are so far apart, any ship with enough energy to land on these asteroids has more than enough energy to land on and launch from Earth. Pournelle smashed the concept of Belter civilization. Now that hasn’t stopped people from writing Belter civilization stories, but I can’t believe in them. And if I can’t believe in them, I can’t write them.

But Pournelle also gave us an alternative, one that I was not at all ashamed to adopt. An asteroid is hard to catch, but a planet’s gravity makes it easy to catch. And a massive planet like Jupiter is even easier! Plus Jupiter’s gravity has swept up millions of asteroids over the eons, capturing them as moonlets. And once your spacecraft is in Jupiter orbit, it’s relatively easy to rendezvous with these moonlets, since the difference between your velocity and theirs is low. Pournelle predicted a mining colony or colonies in Jupiter orbit. In “Unrefined”, I called these the Pournelle Settlements, and included a much-abbreviated version of this explanation.

That choice changed my initial concept. Instead of a small mining ship, the focus shifted to a settlement. I added an initial scene of the husband’s death, and the story expanded to explore how the colony could survive physical and economic sabotage and fulfill the dead man’s dream. I like to think it’s about a lot more than that: intrigue, leadership, grief, trust, and love.

Stuart: Well I can’t wait to read in in WotF 31! Good luck Martin, and enjoy Hollywood!

——————————————————-

Martin’s work has appeared in Analog Science Fiction & Fact, Galaxy’s Edge, and elsewhere. More at martinlshoemaker.com.

You Love Me! You Really Love Me!

C Stuart Hardwick
Shawn Scarber
Marina Nelson Lostetter
Jamie Lackey
John EckelkampRobert Dawson
Stanley Love
Martin L. Shoemaker
Angus McIntyre
Karen Birkedahl Rylander

Since its early days, science fiction has played a unique role in human civilization. It removes the limits of what “is” and shows us a boundless vista of what “might be.” Its fearless heroes, spectacular technologies and wondrous futures have inspired many people to make science, technology and space flight a real part of their lives and in doing so, have often transformed these fictions into reality. The National Space Society and Baen Books applaud the role that science fiction plays in advancing real science and have teamed up to sponsor this short fiction contest in memory of Jim Baen.

Meet the Winners Returns – Jordan Ellinger

Last year I ran a series of interviews with my fellow Writers of the Future winners, and it was so much fun, I decided to do it again! As with last year, I decided to start off the series with a former winner, so this time, 2008 Winner Jordan Ellinger has kindly dropped by for the kick off.jordan

Stuart: Hi Jordan, thanks for starting us off this year!

Jordan: My pleasure!

Stuart: You were in WotF 25, so you’ve had a few years to put the experience in context. How would you sum up the effect it’s had on your writing career?

Jordan: I wasn’t one of those writers who immediately breaks out right after the workshop and takes the world by storm. I still needed to keep at it for a year or two before I started selling professionally. By far the biggest benefit I reaped and have continued to reap, since winning the contest, is the wealth of contacts that I’ve made since the event. Remember that WotF isn’t like Clarion West (which I also attended in ’09) or Writing Superstars, or virtually any other workshop. Everyone there is basically at the same place in their writing careers–pros by virtue of winning the contest, but still a year or two away from breaking out. You can grow together. I’ve been blessed enough to attend the workshop at ASI’s invitation for over 5 years now and every year I’ve made new friends with some amazingly talented writers. And of course there are the judges.

Stuart: And what are you working on now?

Jordan: I do more editing than writing right now (having just launched Urban Fantasy Magazine and I’ve been able to lean on some of those judges for stories. Additionally, I was lucky enough to collaborate with Mike Resnick, whom I met at the workshop, on a story and that’s been a big resume booster.

Stuart: When I won, you were kind enough to come hang out with us newbies, and I wanted to thank you for that. I know that you have done a lot of work on the Warhammer books, and you shared some thoughts on the tradeoffs of tie-ins, perhaps you’d like to comment on that here?

Jordan: I have sworn off tie-in writing for the moment, except for Star Citizen and Iron Kingdoms (if my schedule opens up). The problem with tie-in writing is that you aren’t creating assets for yourself. You’re working for a paycheck. An agent asked me last year to put together a collection that he could use to generate some buzz about my writing and I couldn’t. I don’t own anything that I’ve written for the past 3 years or so.

Stuart: But you do get the paycheck, and you build up your resume and skillset, right?

Jordan: After writing tie-ins for so long, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are three kinds of people who should be writing tie-ins:

  1. People who love a particular property, and then they should write only for that property.
  2. Failed novelists who are looking to relaunch their careers.
  3. People who want to get paid to write their million words of crap. Even, then, they should probably just write their own thing.

And except for the second group, everyone should write under a pseudonym. You mention that it’s good resume and skill building. Well, many people think that it can HURT your resume, since the tie-in market is still viewed as a writing ghetto. It doesn’t help when larger franchises get staff members to write books, despite them not having developed their craft enough to pull it off. You certainly can build your skillset writing tie-ins, but why not do it by creating properties that you actually own?

Stuart: What advice do you have for this year’s winners as they head to Hollywood, and as they move on, awards in hand?

Jordan: Network, network, network. Tell your loved ones that you’re not going to be available when you’re down there. The judges are all masters of their craft–and they can open the right doors for you if they choose. It was Kevin J Anderson who got Patrick Rothfuss’ book in front of the agent who eventually landed him his big book deal, and Mike has been known to collaborate with one or two winners every year.

Stuart: What’s the nuttiest thing that ever happened to you?

Jordan: I was mugged in the red-light district in Amsterdam. I’m no giant, but Europeans are generally shorter than Canadians and because of that, and the fact that I was a little drunk, I was feeling pretty invincible. I smoked at the time and asked a very unsavory gentleman for a light. When he threatened to stab me with a needle for full of AIDS I yelled a warning to my friend and took off. About a block later I realize that my buddy wasn’t with me. I turned around and there he was standing right next to my mugger wondering what the heck was happening (there are substances other than alcohol that you can indulge in in Amsterdam and he’d liberally partaken of one of these). I wasn’t going to leave him there, so I began to run back towards them. Luckily, he clued in just before the mugger’s friends descended on us and we were able to make our escape together.

Stuart: Holy Geez! Personally, I’d say the single biggest short-term effect my win has had is credibility. It made me an instant mini-celebrity in the local writing guild, and I now get more support and understanding in my personal life where before, writing was seen as a very time-consuming hobby. Did you find that to be true as well, and what other effects have appeared down the road?

Jordan: Yes and no. I did feel a sense of validation when I won, and people who know about the contest took me seriously, but it can also hurt a writer’s career. Sometimes there’s a sense of pressure; now that they’ve won this big award, every story they write needs to be the best story ever, and that just doesn’t happen. I know a few writers who are blocked right now for that very reason.

Stuart: Sure, I can understand that. “Write the shitty draft” as Anne Lamott says. Do you have any unusual talents or hobbies?

Jordan: My hobby is Urban Fantasy Magazine. It’s one thing to run a magazine in your spare time, but it’s quite another to invest a pile of money in one and then desperately scramble to build something that’ll recoup that investment. Things are looking great for UFM and we’re ahead of our goal in terms of subscribers, but we’re still bleeding red ink and since the money is coming out of my pocket (and I’m not rich) I need to focus on getting it to at least break even.

Stuart: I usually ask newer writers whether they are “pantsers or plotters,” but in your case, let’s focus that. How do you address productivity in general, and meeting deadlines in particular? Do you see any conflict between creative force and the demands for timely production, and if so, how do you manage that?

Jordan: Part of the reason I got into tie-ins is that I’m unable to finish anything unless I am forced to do so. The contest forced me to finish short stories, and tie-in contracts force me to finish longer works. In terms of creativity, no, I don’t see a conflict. Writing is a muscle and you can train yourself to write quickly. Don’t believe writers who tell you that you have to spend months on a work to have it turn out great…they just haven’t developed the skill of writing to a deadline.

Stuart: Well thanks Jordan. It’s great to get your perspectives, and best of luck with UFM!

———————————————

Jordan Ellinger’s story “After the Final Sunset” was a first place winner in the 2008 L Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future contest, and appears (as Jordan Lapp) in vol 25 of the anthology. He’s also been featured in AE – The Canadian Science Fiction Review, and various anthologies. He co-founded Every Day Fiction, the once-a-day Flash Fiction magazine, and is Managing Editor of Urban Fantasy Magazine. More information at www.jordanellinger.com.

Do Hugo Awards Dream With Sad Puppy Eyes?

Brad Torgersen recently posted his opinions about the Hugo nominating and balloting process in what is fast becoming a tradition as sensible and esteemed as the minority response to the President’s State of the Union address. Sad Puppies III, it seems, will either destroy science fiction or tear down the pyres of injustice upon which it’s already smoldering.

Or not.

Brad is my friend. He’s a more-than-fine writer, a kind and decent man, and a thoughtful commentator on all things writerly, whether you agree with him about them or not. But while I’ve not made an exhaustive survey of the “Sad Puppies” blogs by Brad and Larry Correia and others over the last two years, what I have read rather reminds me of the Seinfeld episode in which Kramer says, “They STOLE my idea!” to which Jerry replies, “Which idea was that? To spend $10 million you don’t have or renovate a building you don’t own?”

The fact of the matter is, the Hugo is set up to meet the needs of the World Science Fiction Society, and key among these is to promote attendance at its conventions and their maintenance as the preeminent of their kind. It’s their party, and they make the rules. Which is not to say Brad and Larry and the other can’t have their opinions, or state them loudly, or go start (and fund) their own shindig.

I hope the result is a reward for literary quality and skill, but both are subject to complex tastes and trends, the waxing and waning of which are fundamental to healthy society. I’m not going to pander to whatever I think is this year’s anointed minority or theme, but neither am I going to shy away from writing stories that question the firmament at both ends of the political spectrum. That’s what spec fic is for, to disturb perspectives, not enshrine them.

In the meantime, I can’t worry about politics. Having won the Writers of the Future contest last year, I’m far too busy working on my own projects to worry about what WSFS is doing right or wrong. For the record, though, my stories, “Rainbows for Other Days” and “Callista’s Delight” are both eligible for Hugo and Campbell Award nomination this year—just sayin’. I’m not going to hold my breath, and Im not going to stay up late nights wondering whether the system is stacked against me. I’m just going to keep writing, and improving, and trying to connect with my audience, and I think that’s what we all better do.

David Gerrold’s Ten Essential Golden Age Science Fiction/Fantasy Books

David Gerrold wrote The Trouble With Tribbles, and has been writing ever since. He’s a curmugeon. And he’ss been around. Here is his list of “Essential Science Fiction/Fantasy Books from the Golden Age”. That is all

  • Starship Troopers, Heinlein (runner-up, The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, Heinlein) Why? Because it was the beginning of a whole subgenre, military SF.
  • The Left Hand of Darkness, LeGuin (runner up: Venus Plus X, Sturgeon ) Examining the nature of gender.
  • Dune, Herbert (runner up: Game of Thrones, Martin) Epic political adventure.
  • Ringworld, Niven (runner up: Rendezvous With Rama, Clarke) The large big thing….
  • The Stars My Destination, Bester (runner up: Nova, Delaney or Slan, Van Vogt) Space opera.
  • The Dying Earth/Eyes of the Overworld, Vance (runner up: The City And The Stars, Clarke) Far future adventure.
  • The Fountains of Paradise, Clarke (runner up: The Web Between The Worlds, Sheffield) Orbital space elevator
  • Stand On Zanzibar, Brunner (runner up: The Sheep Look Up, Brunner) Sprawling, multi-character epic portrayal of a future world.
  • Snowcrash, Stephenson (runner up: Shockwave Rider, Brunner) Where cyberpunk began.
  • Have Space Suit, Will Travel, Heinlein (runner up: Citizen of the Galaxy, Heinlein) Classic young adult adventures.

Thank You, John Lewis, Whoever you are.

IMAG0387A few months ago, my wife bought an Acer Chromebook 710 without realizing that well, it’s useless. Running Chrome OS made it perpetually tied to the Internet, and the Chrome OS is in firmware, so you can’t install a real, actual operating system. For those content to work totally within the constraints imposed by Chrome OS, it’s a nice little machine, $200 for a decent 16G solid state drive, 2G memory, and a dual core 1.66 GHz processor. But alas, all for naught, and no real way to redeem it with a lightweight Xubuntu installation.

Ah, but there is. This is the maker generation, and the Chromebook uses SeaBios, the open source firmware BIOS to end all BIOSes, and this nice Irish chap named John Lewis put together a super easy image that you can put on USB and use to flash the box as soon as you learn the Chrome OS developer mode secret handshake of doom.

So I did that, and that gave me a nice little Xubuntu box with no trackpoint support. Er, no. Full Ubuntu? No. Fedora? Yes! Fedora 20 gave me a fully functional box except…no, no, no!!! It crashes every time any sort of power down or suspend is attempted, and about 3 out of 4 attempts on boot. Well, that’s hardly a bargain, but I decided to run with it for a few weeks anyway, mostly to check out Fedora (pain in the ass–use Ubuntu) and the flat-topped keyboard style all Chromebooks and Ulrabooks now come with (eh, tolerable, I guess).

But this weekend, I visited the esteemed Mr. Lewis’s site and discovered he had announced an upgrade–and it looked like a simple–just run this script with power and Intranet connected–no hanshake of doom required! So did that.

Ubuntu still doesn’t recognize the trackpad, but now Fedora works perfectly. Every suspend/wake cycle completes successfully. Every boot works. No more hangs when playing YouTube videos. Sweet! I went out first thing this morning and bought an 8G memory upgrade. So now I have a fully functional writing powerhouse, running Fedora 20 in 10G of memory, with Scrivener, LibreOffice, and the usual utilities (still no Chromium, oddly, because it apparently doesn’t comply with the Fedora manifesto for commercial and narco-syndicalist purity–or something). I could not be happier unless this novel were to somehow suddenly complete and publish and negotiate foreign rights for itself. But honesty, what would be the fun in that?

The Acer C710 still has trackpoint problems, but these are static related, and I’m sure I can cure them with a little mechano improve. For his considerable trouble, I made a smal Paypal donating to John Lewis, and if you’d like to check out his work, you can find him here: https://johnlewis.ie/.

I Was Wrong

For quite some time, I resisted Scrivner. Not so much resisted, really, as ignored, as it didn’t appear to actually exist in my universe of Linux and cheap hardware and mostly free, open source software. Besides, I’ve become adept at getting LibreOffice to do everything I really need a word processor to do, or so I thought.

I was wrong.
A recent question by a friend led me to do a little research, and I soon found that there has been a free Linux beta for Scrivner for some time. In spite of its beta status and a number of old complaints in the support forum, I decided to check it out. And holy crap! This is the word processor I would have written had I wanted to spend my nights writing code like in olden days instead of chasing literary rainbows.snapshot1

Since I started writing Citadel Rules, I’ve been struggling to adapt my natural pantsing creative style to the more structured approach that years of software development experience tells me is critical to producing quality at a productive pace. I’ve bought notecards and dry-erase and and half dozen books on structure and screenplay writing. All have merits, but none gave me what I really, intuitively want, a literary take on good, old fashioned “stepwise refinement”.

Stepwise refinement is a concept from computer science in which a program is first written as essentially a mostly-English outline, and then its steps are each refined into more detailed steps, and so on and so on until the steps match the level of implementation detail of the system on which it will be executed. Similarly, I want to be able to start with a generic outline of the structure I’m going for, then progressively write down into each act, chapter, or scene.

Scrivner is perfect for this. It lets you subdivide a section at any time, and sections can be named, moved, demoted or promoted within the manuscript, or stuck down in a research folder for later reference. Better yet, Scriver lets you view your work in an outline that displays word count totals for every folder and subfolder, to help with pacing and chapter size and other length concerns that worry us writers.

And it doesn’t matter how convoluted the outline becomes, because Scrivner embraces another principle from computer science, the separation of content from presentation. Once your work is finished, Scrivner will “compile” it into any of dozens of formats, from standard manuscript format in rtf format, to any of a number of ebook formats for final consumption. Scriver even offers customizable wizards to let you, for example, convert all italics to underscore when producing a manuscript, but not an ebook.

Microsoft Word and Libre/OpenOffice have outline views, and the latter has support for breaking a large document up into component sections under a master file, but neither is really of much help in drafting out a novel, because it takes too much effort to move pieces around, and to switch back and forth between the outline and the text. Scrivner addresses this to, by providing each section with a synopsis and other metadata.

Scrivner will have it’s problems. For a start, it does not yet support all the export formats in the Linux beta, but it’s a giant step in the right direction, and it runs just fine on my little Linux-converted Chromebook.

How about you? Have you ever found the perfect tool to do what you love? Share it in a comment below.

To Our Veterans

Soldiers don’t declare war.

They don’t set policy.

They aren’t always set on a righteous path.

They show up when they are called, they do the job, and if they are lucky enough to come home, they carry the baggage with them for the rest of their lives.

Whether my daddy setting fire to the jungle, my wife training men who wouldn’t listen, or my great uncle who jumped in a garbage pit and brought home a catholic idol instead of his baby brother, we owe them, all of them, all of us, every day.

That is all.

WriteOn Right On?

So I’ve been playing around on Amazon’s “WriteOn” this week (thanks Andrea!) and here’s my first blush opinion: It has the same feel as software projects I’ve worked on in which graphic artists are put in charge of design. Graphic artists are great. I know some graphic artists who are wonderful, sweet people, and they make things shiny and beautiful. But that’s not what software is about, it’s about getting work done, and confusing “functional” for “pretty” is a costly, usually fatal design mistake.

WriteOn is an online critique site, but it doesn’t call itself a critique site. It calls itself a “story lab,” which is not what you call yourself if you are trying to serve people who know what things are called in this business–which is clue #1 that something isn’t quite tuned correctly in the old whatthehellometer. The site itself is pretty, and pretty odd. The main menu looks like a storefront, with lots of “covers” which I initially confused for Amazon advertising, but no, these are (randomly selected?) story posts presented as if they were published works. This is clue #2 than something wicked might this way may just be a coming.

A critique site is where WRITERS go to get and give feedback on WRITING and the business of WRITING. Writers work in standard manuscript format–occasionally with some accommodation to online presentation. IF a work makes it to publication, IF the author is self-publishing, he or she MIGHT become involved in cover design. But at this stage, presentation is (or should be) far from a writer’s mind. Which is clue #3, and a very big clue indeed, that you got trouble, my friend, trouble I say, right here in River City.

WriteOn offers a simple little wizard that allows–nay, REQUIRES–you to create “covers” for your uploaded works. The uploaded works, themselves, are presented in a virtual reader designed to look something like a printed book or e-reader. Why? There are only two possible reasons. Either the creators of WriteOn don’t know that real writers deal in raw words and mostly find all this presentation stuff a distraction and waste of critically valuable time, or they are trying to feed the publication fantasies of the unwashed masses.

If the former is the case, it’s a bit annoying. Since these covers exist, making them attractive becomes a critical, time-consuming, unproductive step in attracting critiques. That’s annoying, but critiques are so valuable, we’ll go along with it if the feedback is worth it. But if the later is true, then that’s unlikely.

We’ll see. WriteOn may turn out to be the greatest thing since sliced Linotype, or it may be a fool’s errand. Time will tell. In the meantime, here is my first cover:

Honey I Shrunk The Waistline

When my wife’s telecommute schedule coincides with mine, I like to make us lunch. Today’s “honey I shrunk to waistline,” offering? Egg & avocado brunch tacos on whole-wheat tortilla, with spinach and pear salad made with dried cherries, diced almonds, broccoli & cauliflower tossed with lime vinaigrette. Served with blueberry hibiscus tea.

IMAG0362Eggs are nutritious, but terrible for your cholesterol, and the egg board’s propaganda that they have “balanced fats” is wishful thinking at best–unless you serve them like this. This all comes to nearly 600 calories–far more than I usually allocate to lunch–but I’m working at my treadmill desk today and this is about as nutritious as food gets–and as delicious. Honestly, one taco would have been plenty, and then it would come in at around 350 calories.

What’s especially nice about this meal is that it’s not only a feast for me, it’s a feast for the helpful bacteria living in my gut, without whom I would be doomed where I stand. Cell-for-cell, they outnumber me three to one, so it pays to keep them happy. Almost everything we know about them, we’ve learned in the last twenty years, and the findings are transforming our understanding of nutrition and diet, month after month after month.

Eating yogurt or the odd probiotic doesn’t cut it. What you feed these guys is at least as important as what you feed yourself, and it has a huge impact on what your body gets from its meals and how it puts it to use. The science is still in it’s infancy, but one thing is crystal clear, we in the west eat far too much meat and dairy, and it’s making us very sick.

Check it out and let me know what you think. Are you a vegan or a veg? Do you swear by the modified Akins? Did your grandma live to be a hundred eating pork rinds and deep fried twinkies? Leave a comment and tell me what you think, and until next time, bon appetit!

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